Just before the bus departed from Weber High School for Rio Tinto Stadium, Weber head coach Jan Swift informed his team that this would be his final season as coach of the Weber boys soccer program.
For the Warriors, Friday’s 6A title game now had more implications than a potential repeat state championship; they needed to send off their title-winning coach in style.
The players’ message to each other was collective: Do it for Jan.
In dramatic fashion, the Warriors came through for their head coach as they won a consecutive 6A state title thanks to a 4-3 advantage over Skyridge in a penalty shootout that followed a 1-1 draw at the end of the overtime periods. The Warriors finished the season with virtually no blemishes and a 19-0 record.
“It’s emotional obviously, but you know, we worked hard all season. I believed in the boys and they believed in us, they bought into what we wanted, and they did it, they accomplished it. So proud of them.” — Weber coach Jan Swift
“It’s emotional obviously, but you know, we worked hard all season,” Swift said after his final game. “I believed in the boys and they believed in us, they bought into what we wanted, and they did it, they accomplished it. So proud of them.”
The 19th and final win of the season didn’t come easily. In fact, the Warriors arguably faced their most difficult test of the season.
Skyridge’s Jacob Jensen sent a shot toward goal in the 17th minute that shaved the bottom of the crossbar and into Weber’s net. The one-goal advantage the play created was held by the Falcons through halftime, dealing Weber its first halftime deficit all season.
Despite the unfamiliar territory, the Warriors never lost themselves or their confidence.
“We knew we had it,” Weber goalkeeper Stockton Short said. “Coaches told the guys to keep their heads up and we’ll get in this. It just takes one goal.”
That one goal came exactly one minute into the second half when Collin Jones bent a cross into the front of goal, which Skyridge’s Jaymin Fisher tried to clear with his head, but instead sent the ball into the back of the net for an own-goal. Fisher, who was caught in no man’s land, had to try and do something for a clearance, as the excellent cross likely would’ve resulted in a Weber goal anyway.
The own goal equalized the score at 1-1, and that scoreline would hold at the end of two overtime periods, forcing a penalty shootout.
Each keeper saved a shot in the shootout, with the rest of the shots being converted until the 10th and final shot of the shootout taken by Skyridge which banged off the crossbar, ending the game.
“I had total confidence in the guys,” Short said of the penalty shootout. “In the huddle before the penalty shootout I said, ‘I’ve got your back if you’ve got mine,’ and that’s exactly what happened.”
With only one goal conceded for the game, the Warriors finished off the season with just three conceded goals, a new state record.
“They never give up,” Swift said of his team’s historic defensive performance. “They back each other up, they know the midfield comes in to play too and they win a lot of balls there. They’re calm, they’re collected and that’s been their keystone all year.”
Although the two key moments that won the championship game for the Warriors came off of mistakes by Skyridge, given the whole season’s body of work, no team deserved the title more than Weber and the players knew that.
“We deserved it more than anyone else did and we deserved that win,” Short said.
Short added that he was happy that they could send off Swift and the seniors off with a bang and that he and his fellow underclassmen will have their eyes set on a three-peat next season.
Swift was asked to reflect on his career and what he’ll miss the most, and his response was simple:
“Just the boys,” Swift said. “Hopefully we’ll have those lasting memories. I’m so proud of them and all the young men I’ve had the opportunity to coach over the years.”